Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jimmy's dream displays resentment towards his father - Ben Carlson

In a lot of the dreams and daydreams that Jimmy Corrigan has throughout the story, his thoughts and feelings that he internalize comes out for us to interpret and understand. One particular case can be difficult to interpret but can be fit to the story. On pages 56 and 57 of Jimmy Corrigan we see a representation of Jimmy’s thoughts and feelings when he dreams about a pet horse named Amos. This horse is a pet for Jimmy that likes to look fancy and in doing so, upsets Jimmy’s father and pushes the resentment that his father has, to making Jimmy kill Amos. Jimmy runs away and talks to a friend Avery, where he builds up the courage to do as his father wishes and he wakes up in the middle of the act. I believe that this dream displays some of Jimmy’s negative feelings towards his dad.

The story as a whole leaves a lot for interpretation, as I understood it; Jimmy grew up without knowing his dad and without knowing of his dad even. He has a very overbearing mother that controlled a lot of what he did and always wanted to keep in check with him. When he finds out his dad exists and wants to get to know him, I believe that there is a lot of resentment that is internalized by Jimmy. In class we discussed the similarities that Jimmy has to Charlie Brown, the same depressed person that accepts when bad things happen to him and doesn’t speak out. On page 13 is the first time that Jimmy internalizes in the story with regards to his dad, he gets the letter and is confused because up until this point he accepted that he didn't have a father. Instead of asking his mom about it when she called, he just let it go. He finds out in this instant that he has a dad and didn't have to go through life without a father. Having that heartache that he has been missing out on a father figure in his life up until this moment when he could have had one must have fostered some resentment towards his father for that abandonment.

Later when Jimmy is meeting and talking with his dad, he is talking with him in a fast food place. If I was meeting my dad for the first time, I would want it to be in a place that is less commercial and probably crowded. We see later in the book that his father regards him and his half-sister as mistakes, when this occurs we do not see Jimmy speak out or say anything against it, but only internalizes it and suffers because of it. He holds a lot of negative emotion towards his dad that seems unresolved.

What kind of father would ask a son to kill his favorite horse? Despite the horse trying on his pants, this does not seem like a very nice demand from Jimmy’s father. When faced with this demand, even dream Jimmy has to show having some resentment that his favorite animal is going to die. He runs away from the terrible thing that his father asks, this is a representation of what Jimmy does in real life. When his father does something terrible or there is something negative associated with his father he shuts down emotionally and internalizes it, he “runs away” in his mind.

When interpreting this dream, I understood Avery to be his conscious making sure that Jimmy did what he was supposed to do. In Jimmy’s real life, he may be hearing and accepting shocking things that make him want to run away, at least emotionally from the situation. He stays and sticks with his dad, because while making him uncomfortable or being less than ideal for getting to know his father, it is the right thing to do. While Jimmy is faced with tough times like having to kill Amos, he is stepping up to the plate and taking the risk in this social situation, which surprises me.

Jimmy waking up right as he is about to pull the trigger on Amos doesn’t come across as a regular dream where he would wake up before something terrible happens. The dream develops to him waking up because in that moment he realizes what it is that he is supposed to do, stay with his dad and get to know him.

One final part to interpret from the dream that Jimmy has, is the setting. When he is faced with the difficult task, the scene becomes rainy, a symbol that expresses sadness or depression. This isn’t something that is new to Jimmy, he is a sad person that keeps a lot on his mind and this shows in the dream.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Prompts for Thursday

Option 1)  Do a project proposal.  See the details in my previous post.

Option 2)  Carefully (re)read the material inside the *back* cover; I have in mind especially the sections on "peach" and "symbol," although you may use others.  Use Ware's definition(s) to help explore one symbol in this week's reading.  If you do the bird, don't repeat thing that were said in class, other than as a quick reminder.  Discuss how the symbol is used in at 2 or 3 places in the book, paying attention to details of its visual presentation.

Option 3)  Make an argument which connects either Jimmy's dream about Amos (the little horse) or about his father-as-farmer to the text as a whole.  Again, you must make use of particular visual details.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Guidelines for Final Project

Note:  I will revise this as necessary in order to clarify.

First, the raw requirements.

1)  Final projects, in general, should be 8-10 pages long.
2)  Final projects should contain at least 5-6 pages of new material.
3)  Final projects must follow a clear, focused, non-trivial argument addressed to a member of the class (Who has come to class and done the readings) from the first page until the last.
4)  Final projects must add at least two academic sources.  Non-academic sources may be used with my permission, for projects where they are well-suited.
5)  Final projects are worth sixty points.  This should be, in all ways, your best work, and should show a thoughtfulness and degree of effort beyond anything else you've done in this class.

Second, the guidelines.

1)  You may simply do a revision of previous work, including prior revisions.  Your argument should suit the length and complexity of the original; it will not necessarily match the original prompt, but should at least bear traces of it.
2)  You may, if you wish, define an entirely new project.  The subject matter must be clearly related to the class, and you must make use of a text (or texts) we have read together.  A project should always have a clear argument, which makes a claim that a person in this class might care about.  A comparison is not, in itself, an argument.
3)  While most people should do essays, and as likely as not everyone will do an essay, I will consider creative projects (including projects with a visual element).  If you want to do something other than an essay, the burden is on you to explain why it's a good idea.  Creative projects should be more difficult and ambitious than essays, not less.

Third, the dates.

1)  Your next blog entry is due on the 1st.  I will post one or two Corrigan-related prompts.  You may also post a *detailed* project proposal (1-2) pages, which includes your proposed research (exact sources, not general ideas), a clear argument or thesis statement, and either the first 1-2 pages (which should be rewritten if you're doing a revision) or an outline.
2) In any case, I need at least a brief project proposal (an explanation of what you intend to do and why, including a one sentence version of your argument and your sources), by December 5th.  This can change, of course, but I want you to start planning sooner, not later.
3)  The week of December 5th I will read and comment on rough drafts.  These are recommended, not required.  Any rough draft should include a paragraph or so explaining what you're doing, and any questions you might have.  Email these to me, in order to minimize turnaround time.  First come, first served!
4)  The syllabus says projects are due December 12th.  That's a somewhat aggressive deadline.  I'm giving you three dates instead.
a)  If you want full comments (that is, comments on individual paragraphs, etc.), I need it by 5:00 p.m. on the 12th (Monday).
b)  If you want limited comments (think a paragraph or two on the project as a whole), I need it by 5:00 p.m. on the 14th (Wednesday).
c)  If you don't need comments, I can accept papers as late as 5:00 a.m. (yes, you read that right) on the 16th (Friday).  I'm planning on taking the day off from work to do grading, hence the deadline.

Note:  Final projects should always be emailed to me.  If you wish, and/or as a backup, you may post them to the blog.

Sunday Blog Post

Here is the thread for the Sunday blog post regarding the first half of Jimmy Corrigan.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stopping point for Monday's reading.

Stop at this page for Monday's reading.  It's roughly half way through the book.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Revision #2 - Crumb - Lindsey Kasmiroski

In the film Crumb, we are able to get a good insight into his early childhood and life with his family. Being an navy brat and raised as a catholic myself, I can certainly share some insight as to how things can be a little "crazy" growing up. It is very easy to lose oneself in the bible when trying to escape from a chaotic world, but the words of the lord can take you in one of two directions: the person reading them can let the scripture define their live, or the person can apply their own meaning to the bible and develop a whole new interpretation completely. This can certainly be applied to Crumb's work with The Book of Genesis, but the true "inspiration" for Robert Crumb's works can be seen when delving further into his home life and his childhood.

One thing that can lead to developing some sort of neurosis is a constant "broken household" that does the complete opposite of nurture creativity. From personal experience, while living in a strict, military household, stepping outside the line and developing new ideas and ways of thinking is not always a good thing. One is pressured into the book. This means two things. Children are pressured into a general book of rules that can include: a relentless and tight schedule, impeccable cleanliness, following direct orders, and above all, demonstrating a profound respect for superiors. The other book that children in the army have to live their lives by, of course, is the bible. While public school may be tolerated in a more "lax" army society (as was in my case), strict studying of the bible and its lessons happened every Sunday...all day. With Crumb's strict military lifestyle coupled with a mother's drug problems could certainly lead to a need to break free from a life of perfectly made beds and suppressed thinking that some level of neurosis can eventually develop. For Crumb's case, he and his brothers took solace in drawing comics. As the years progressed, the more and more disturbing the subject matter of their comics became. Not only were there images that exemplify an extreme hatred of women, but the violent images that progressed over time were a direct link to the rapid mental decline of the Crumb brothers.

Another aspect of Robert Crumb's childhood aside from the strict upbringing and the eventual usage of LSD that can cause neurosis which can later be seen in his works is the abuse. As a form of suppression and keeping people in line, members of the military can use verbal abuse to make sure that orders are strictly followed. The verbal and physical abuse that Crumb experienced and witnessed as a child is certainly not something that lends to maintaining a good outlook on life and sanity in general. This is yet another way that Crumb's creativity and artistic abilities had to grow and flourish on the "down-low" with his siblings. I wanted to be an art major, but my father told me that, "drawing pictures for a living is for hippies" and he would not pay for an education that would "eventually lead to me doing drugs and eventually dropping out of school anyway". Seeing as how Crumb's father was just about as nurturing as mine, it is easy to see how and why he rebelled and went the direction that he did. In the film, Crumb talks about his father's disappointment for not having a strong, successful son. All three boys of the Crumb family were nerdy and awkward to a degree, and had no interest in playing football or joining the military. Robert and his brothers came together and nurtured their creativity by creating their own little publishing company withing the home. While his siblings deteriorated a little more quickly, Robert, much to the chagrin of his father, was eventually able to gain success through his artwork.

The Book of Genesis is a production of Crumb's fractured home life. The illustrations throughout the book definitely lend to a life of suppression and abuse. Interpreting the bible in a visibly violent manner is a demonstration of how Crumb feels that although he grew up learning Catholicism and its lessons, they did not protect them like they promised. God is often portrayed as a father figure, and men and women are His children. The Old Testament is the part of the bible that shows God's authority over humanity and His vengeance against sinners. Each time a human being is sentenced to death by God for breaking his holy laws, the image is depicted in an extremely bloody way. In chapter 38, as a part of the story of Joseph, God put Er, Judah's, son of Joseph, son to death based merely on the fact that he was evil in the eyes of the Lord. The images that follow are of a man slain on the ground, bleeding profusely as a man with a blade skulks away in the background. On the same page, Onan, also son of Judah is put to death by God. This time, the panel displays a man's head being smashed in with a rock. God's punishments throughout Genesis could possibly be construed as a father punishing his children, or perhaps, something that Crumb himself witnessed as he was growing up. In the film, Crumb, Charles details how their mother and father would fight as a result of the drugs, and the extent of the physical damage that occurred. At one point, Charles compared his father's face to hamburger meat. Many of the images of man in this book depicts them as physically harmed, downtrodden and defeated after God has dealt with them. These images are certainly childhood experiences that Robert Crumb transferred from his mind to pen and paper.

The images and the interpretation of the lord's text in Crumb's Book of Genesis is a direct result of the treatment from his mother and father during his childhood. While many signs point to having developed a slight neurosis over the years from not only his upbringing, but his later experience with drugs and alcohol, this work from Crumb is definitely a protest to an early life of suppression and strict rules. With the lessons of the bible failing to comfort a young Crumb, a visual interpretation is an easy way to rebel from the years of Catholic school where he was treated as an outcast and gained nothing. While I may not have had a physically abusive childhood, and my mother is mentally sound, I can definitely relate to Crumb and his early life. My older sister and I managed to avoid a life of drugs and becoming a "god-forsaken" hippy, as our parents so eloquently put, but we managed to rebel in our own subtle ways. As every military child who never got to nurture their dreams at a young age would agree, and as Crumb certainly experienced, you may go a little crazy, but you eventually find a way to stick it to your parents

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Open Thread for McCloud/Vertigo/Dr. Caligari

Remember:  review/read through chapter five of McCloud, as well as all of Vertigo.  Class will include either a few scenes from Dr. Caligari (again), or parts of another expressionist film, probably Murnau's The Last Laugh.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Revision 2 - Genesis

Throughout the book, Crumb seemed to put an extreme emphasis on the unforgiving nature of God and the almost childlike revenge seeking if something doesn’t go the way He wants it to. In Alter’s interpretation, the words were just that, words. They did not have any underlying emotions attached to them. He tells us what God does and that’s all we get. When Crumb takes his own interpretation of Alter’s work, there is so much more under the image of God. To be frank, I think Crumb does a very good job at showing God as a daemon from Hell. Not only Crumb, but there are other historical relations to the way God acts to justify why one would think he is shown as such a negative character.

From the beginning, mostly all the images of God are shown to have an angry face or a face that brings about fear from those who gaze into it. A very important interpretation in Crumb’s portrayal of God as a daemon from Hell is from Chapter 19. Alter’s simple words of fire and brimstone were given a very extensive meaning with the type of images Crumb portrays those words with. Alter’s version of Genesis has the phrase, “And the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord from the heavens” (Alter 88).1 If we take the last part of the phrase, “from the Lord from the heavens”, the direct meaning of this phrase, in one sense, could mean that the fire was sent from God who lives in heaven. But Crumb decides to take this phrase and adds a few words into it that changes the meaning of it slightly from the direct meaning we described above. Crumb makes the last part of the phrase to read as “from the Lord from out of the heavens”.2 By adding the words ‘out of’, Crumb just made the words into a definite interpretation of the fire and destruction coming from heaven itself. As if stressing the cruelty of it all, Crumb draws a different frame for each of the last parts. “from the Lord” phrase is dedicated with showing a huge crowd of people clustered together having flames falling on them. If one can see it another way, it could almost resemble the holocaust killings. The part “from out of the heavens” probably has the most important picture dedicated to it that shows clearly why I think Crumb is trying to show God as the daemon from Hell.2 The flames falling, the dark outlines of people on fire, with fire everywhere just gives off the feeling of what one might picture Hell to look like. Also the fact that Crumb changed the words from “from the heavens” to “from out of the heavens” shows the fact that he is emphasizing the connection of fire and heaven. Since fire is usually correlated with Hell, we are given an image of him trying to show us that he believes Heaven to be Hell at this point.

One would say Hitler was a real daemon. He was unmercifully vengeful against anyone who wasn’t a Nazi. He believed in “racial hygiene” and killed children who had physical and mental disabilities. Also in order to expand the German empire and acquire all the land around him, he killed over fourteen million people including 7 million Jews. The mass murder of these innocent people was dubbed the Holocaust. Vast groups of people were gassed to death, while others died of hunger and starvation.3 Only Hitler’s select few were allowed to live. Even his involvement in World War II just served to make his image of a daemon grow. The strategic aerial bombardment that Hitler ordered onto Britain and other countries was just plain cruel. The bombs were ordered to be thrown in the civilian parts of the country. In order to make the Polish surrender, Hitler even went as far as to order the prevention of civilians form leaving the city.4 You might ask how this is anyway related to Genesis and the relation of God being portrayed as a daemon. If we look closely and compare the many cruel and heartless acts of Hitler to those done by God in Genesis, we can make a pretty strong argument that they both aren’t much different from each other.

From the beginning, God was very picky and highly authoritative on how things should run. If something doesn’t go the way he wanted it to, he would get angry and destroy something. He created man and told him spread his seed in all land and to rule it. Man did as was told and spread and naturally fights broke out and disorder ensued. Once again God decides to interfere and decides to get rid of everyone in the world just because he didn’t like all the fighting. Like Hitler, he chose the few that he liked, Noah, his family and 2 of each animal, and decided to kill the rest of the population which can be compared to the 14 million killed by Hitler. Just like Hitler who used gas to commit the mass murders, in order to kill everyone, God brought forth the great flood and destroyed everyone except for Noah who is safe in the Ark that God made him build. Just like Hitler’s next act of evil, the bombardment of innocent civilian settlements, God goes ahead and lets his anger take over and destroys an entire city of innocent people. Recalling the interpretation from the second paragraph, God lets loose the fire balls from the air as the Germans let loose their air bombs onto innocent humans in both cases.

By comparing and overlapping the various actions that Hitler, and Crumb and Alter’s version of the God in Genesis did, one can correlate that if Hitler was viewed as a devil is a majority of the people’s eyes, God having had committed acts very similar to Hitler’s. These are a couple the strongest instances of many in which Crumb show his negative interpretation of Alter’s text on behalf of God. Could Crumb have also been motivated to interpret the Genesis on basis of Hitler as I just did? It is a very likely possibility that would be very interesting to ask him if ever given a chance.

1. Alter, Robert. Genesis: Translation and Commentary. New York: Norton, 1997. Print.

2. "THE BOOK OF GENESIS, ILLUSTRATED BY R. CRUMB." Last Gasp Books. Web. 22 Oct. 2011. .

3. "Adolf Hitler : Biography." Spartacus Educational. Web. 18 Nov. 2011. .

4. "Strategic Bombing during World War II." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 18 Nov. 2011. .

Original -

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Revision #2: Crumb: Anger and Obssession

Through watching the documentary Crumb, it is made obvious that Robert Crumb lived in a “damaged household”.  The documentary provides a detailed description of Crumb’s childhood and upbringing.  Most importantly, it focuses on the struggles and difficulties he faced in his home.  His depiction of his comic illustration of Genesis has a major influence on the understandings of his earlier work and family.  Crumb compares his own life experiences to his interpretation of the biblical text of Genesis.  Specifically, in his documentary, he portrayed himself as an outsider and as someone rejected from society.  This ultimately links to his childhood problems with his mother and father.  The way he perceives his relationship with his parents is similar to the way he perceives God’s relationship with the people of Genesis. Throughout the documentary and illustrations, there are many examples that provide evidence that Crumb’s interpretations of his parents and God are strongly connected.

During the documentary, Crumb’s highlighted the problems that were brought about from his dysfunctional family.  For instance, Crumb’s father was a frustrated veteran who was strict and violent with his children.  His mother was bipolar and had an unpredictable personality.  She was insane, abused her medications, and was overall a terrible influence on her children.  Crumb had two brothers.  They were talented and artistic but struggled with mental illnesses.  Some may believe that their illnesses were caused by the way their parents raised them.  Their parents were unreasonable and demanding.  Their poor parenting led to extreme mental punishments for their children.  Their actions display a great similarity to the actions God displayed in the biblical text of Genesis.  Crumb’s parents punished their children for not being the “normal” and fitting in with society. Crumb felt alienated and rejected from society.

Similarly, God experiences problems during the creation process. God continues to encounter issues with the people he creates. This is evident when he creates Adam and Eve. God attempts to teach the first woman and man on earth the valuable lessons of life. They reject his rules and eat an apple from the tree of life after he told them not to.  Due to their disobedience, God creates consequences.  In example, in chapter 3, he punishes the serpent by removing his arms and legs because he was responsible for Adam and Eve’s decision to eat the apple. In the images of the serpent he originally has arms and legs and in the next frame they are removed from his body while he is slivering on the ground. God acted so harshly because he felt that their actions contradicted what was perceived as normal behavior. 

Crumb’s parents and God are parallels because they are both the leaders of their respective families.  Crumb’s father also saw similarities between his parents and God.  For instance, he stated, “I think of Dad as a person who, I believe, had in many ways achieved the secret of life” (  God is viewed as a figure who achieved the secret of life through creation.  Robert’s father shaped Robert’s upbringing based on his own childhood and perceptions of his own father-son relationship.  Robert’s dad saw his father as an all-powerful figure due to his immense amounts of responsibilities and pressures.  Furthermore, his father was opinionated and close-minded.  It always had to be his way or no way at all.  This is exactly how Robert depicted God in his illustrations.

In Genesis, God had many responsibilities.  God constantly felt frustrated because the people would go against his commands.  God wanted a peaceful world and instead the people acted in evil ways.  The earth was corrupt and this upset God because it was the world that he created.  The people were violent and made God feel regretful for creating humans on earth.  In chapter 6, it is clear that God had many pressures of maintaining a peaceful society.  Since the people continued to act evil, God found Noah who was seen as an ideal human in God’s eyes.  He was honest and peaceful. The pictures drawn in chapter 6, shows the size difference between God and Noah. They are both drawn as elderly man but God is drawn on a larger scale showing his power. Noah’s smaller size shows that he is weaker but still will obey him unlike the rest if the world.  With the help of Noah, God created the arch.  He created the arch so he could destroy the rest of the world, which was filled with corruption.  He wanted to have people only like Noah left in the world. 

Overall, Crumb’s portrayal of his parents is deeply linked to his portrayal of God in his illustrations.  He presented a theme of God and his father having regretful thoughts of creation.  Both God and his father felt that their rules and expectations were not being fulfilled.  Therefore, they both gave consequences.  Crumb and his brother’s relationships with their parents were similar to the relationships between God and the people of Genesis.  His parents and God were viewed as all-powerful beings and if their “children” disobeyed them they were punished.  Robert Crumb illustrates God in the way that he does because of the way he was raised and because of his childhood experiences.

Crumb, R. "Crumb's 'Genesis,' A Sexy Breasts-And-Knuckles Affair : NPR."NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <>.

Holden, Stephen. "Movie Review - Crumb - Anger and Obsession: The Life of Robert Crumb -" Movie Reviews, Showtimes and Trailers - Movies - New York Times - The New York Times. 26 Oct. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <>.

 "R. Crumb's Early Family Life." The Official R. Crumb Website. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.

"Crumb Review." CSUSM Campus Wide Information System. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.

Revision 2

Vertigo by Lynd Ward is a series of three stories, each following a different character. These stories depict sorrow, struggle, and aging of the three main characters as well as those in their presence, their cities, and their country at the time. There are no names, no specific dates - hardly any words at all. So how is it that a reader can combine these hundreds of solitary images into such an involved tale without words? It can be done with the use of the phenomenon “closure” described by Scott McCloud. Closure is the final product of a process involving past knowledge and deductive reasoning. Vertigo is a unique and far more complex graphic novel than other comics, so the way that a reader moves from image to image is far more demanding than an ordinary comic. Its complexity further emphasizes the need for closure to be accurate and using past knowledge to deduce what happens in the white spaces allows for that to happen.

To understand the need for a different kind of reading, one must first notice main factor that sets Vertigo apart from other graphic novels. By definition, a comic is “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.” (McCloud, 9.) The “comic” definition would place Vertigo into the comic category; however, it is laid out much differently than we might expect. Ordinarily, the word “comic” brings to mind the bright, colorful images seen in Sunday newspapers. They’re scattered with speech bubbles, witty captions, and the scenes are very cartoon-like. More often than not, the images are enclosed within fairly uniform rectangles outlined by bold, black lines. In Vertigo, each image is on a separate page and depicts a unique scene. This is called “scene-to-scene” transition. (McCloud, 71.) The lack of panels defined by a bold line present images that seem to fade off into vast gutters. These immense gutters give readers more creative freedom in connecting the scenes, but these ideas cannot stray too far from what the author intended or the book will not make sense. The lack of words in the book also makes it unusual. Comic books tend to literally write out what is happening, leaving a minimal amount of room for reader interpretation even though it is still necessary in the gutter area. Vertigo on the other hand thrives on interpretation by the readers. Their deductive reasoning, use of prior knowledge is what makes the story make sense. It’s possible to flip through the pages without making any sort of connection between the pictures. Since each frame is on a different page, unlike a normal graphic novel where a glance at a page shows you a big chunk of the story. For these reasons, the way that the phenomenon of closure is used to make sense of the book is very different than other comics and perhaps puts a greater emphasis on the need for closure by the reader. It requires this increased imagination and participation in order to unite all of the images into one larger story that makes sense.

So far, closure has been labeled the most important part of making sense of the odd graphic novel that is Vertigo. “Closure,” McCloud states, is “the phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole.” (McCloud, 63) Said more simply, closure is being able to look at two panels of a comic that describe two separate moments in a scene and being able to know what happened in between those two moments without actually being shown what happened. These unseen moments are represented by the white space between the two panels, which McCloud calls the “gutter.” (McCloud, 66.) This void space surrounding the images is just as important to Vertigo as a whole, if not more important, than the drawings themselves. The gutter is where it becomes necessary for readers to use past knowledge to deduce what could have taken place. The specific knowledge that we need to come to such conclusions is a combination of information gathered from the preceding images within the book, as well as our knowledge of human interactions, feelings, traits of certain cities, and even historical events like the Great Depression. The phenomenon of closure is essential in transforming Vertigo from a book of disconnected illustrations to a fluid, wordless account. Readers must constantly use the facts they’ve gained combined with what they expect to happen to reach conclusions about what has taken place in the gutter.

One could relate the need for prior knowledge to understand a comic to a psychological phenomenon called “top-down processing.” An article by Roya Khoii and Zahara Forouzesh called “Using Comic Strips with Reading Texts: Are We Making a Mistake?” calls top-down processing “a process in which one begins with a set of hypotheses or predictions about the meaning of the text one is about to read.” They also state that top down processing “makes use of the reader’s previous knowledge, his or her expectations, experiences, scripts and schemas in reading the text.” (“Using Comic Strips…” 3.) While this definition pertains to text, the idea can be applied to looking at the images in Vertigo as well. Each image the reader sees is looked at in a new light. The top-down processing restarts with each new picture. The predictions and expectations carried to each new picture are a result of the viewing of the images before it. As each page is observed, the collection of previous knowledge grows and it becomes easier to tie the pictures together into a clear, linear story. Closure requires the reader to use the information given to them in the comic in a “top-down” way in order to allow what would otherwise be “fractured... time and space” to be read smoothly. (McCloud, 67.)

Closure is the idea of knowing what happens when we don’t see it. The gutter is where this “happening” takes place. Prior knowledge is a combination of outside knowledge and what we gain by looking at the images in the novel. Top-down processing gives insight into the way in which we are able to recognize that the pictures do indeed have relation to one another. So how do we actually come to conclusions about the events we cannot see? The information we gain from each of the described processes all funnels down into one thing: deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning is what allows us to move from image to image in Vertigo. As McCloud says, “deductive reasoning is often required in reading comics such as in these scene-to-scene transitions, which transport us across significant distances of time and space.” There are times in Vertigo where a few or even a single image represents the passing of an entire year. It is unrealistic to assume that we would have an image to represent all of the scenarios that could have happened as the year passed. Therefore, it becomes necessary to take the few things we do know and along with what we expect to happen, reach a conclusion we are satisfied with. We then continue reading the book, taking with us our own reader-created ideas of what took place in our minds.

Deductive reasoning is somewhat flawed in that what we may regard to be a fact based on what we know and expect might not be true. The conclusions reached through this method are only as reliable as the details or “facts” that led to that conclusion. Nonetheless, deductive reasoning works because the conclusions generally reached are done so in one of two mostly reliable ways. The first way is through a systematic approach, going step by step. The second possible route is logic. (“Deductive Reasoning…” 241) In an article called “Recognizing Deductive Processes in Qualitative Research,” the authors state that deductive reasoning “commences with observation of specific instances, and seeks to establish generalizations.” (“Recognizing… 82) This indefinite quality to the entire reading of Vertigo is what makes it so incredibly involved. Vertigo is highly dependent on what the reader thinks happens in the gutter, so this somewhat flawed reasoning could be seen as a problem. However, with so much inferring left up to the reader, the inconsistency between the readings by each individual is not necessarily incorrect but instead was an intentional quality by Ward to make every interpretation somewhat unique. This can only be done in a story without words, such as Vertigo.

The importance of these reading processes have already been described, but it is important to highlight the areas of the book in which they are most useful. Since there is no dialogue and the timeline often spans across many years, it can be difficult to tell just from an image who the people in the picture are. Ward relies on closure by the reader to recognize characters in separate images as the same character seen in a previous one. One of the first examples of this occurs with the first two pictures of the section called “1929” in the first part, “The Girl.” We must use our knowledge from the previous images to deduce that the grown woman by the mirror is the same girl who was much younger in the preceding images. We can recognize her father with his large frame and moustache as well as her dark, wavy hair. We can identify that the family is still just the girl and her father. She bears no nametag; there are no words telling us that she is the same girl. Eventually, we can verify that it is the same girl since she is once again playing the violin and bearing many of the same traits as before. Deductive reasoning is used in this case by gathering information about the similarities in traits of the people and then assuming that, because we have already witnessed it time and time again in real life, people change over the course of time but they have a few traits which stay the same and allow them to be identified. So we can deduce that because their traits are the same and their age seems to be increasing, it must be the same person. Without closure, the two images of the girl would seem totally unrelated. One would be a woman standing in what is most likely her bedroom, while the other is an entirely different girl holding a hat near a man who is sitting on a chair. If closure, along with our use of past knowledge and reasoning, did not allow us to realize it was the same girl, this confusion would continue throughout the entire book. Every image would be representing a different girl, a different elderly man, and a different boy.

Since the timeline of the three sections of Vertigo overlap, the use of closure and reasoning to fill in the surrounding areas of the each scene is very important. The stories all may appear to be separate at first since time is given in different forms for each; the first section uses years, the second section uses months, and the third section uses days. This inconsistency of the duration of time between panels is unlike most comics, which are fairly regular. Closure allows the reader to identify that the stories are all occurring at the same time. Nearing the end of “The Girl,” there is an image of the father being given a letter by what appears to be a businessman. Deductive reasoning, or specifically recognizing the business clothes and situation, allows us to determine that the man is his boss giving him a letter that he has lost his job. Ususally if someone is handed a letter by a sympathetic looking boss, they are being asked to leave. A few pages later, the father is seen gazing at a free food line. We can deduce that because he is looking at the free food, he is lacking money or an income, and therefore it is verified that he has indeed lost his job. Closure is needed here to expand the scene beyond a single man losing his job to the scene of a great number of people losing their jobs. We can then relate this mass unemployment to a familiar event in our own history, the Great Depression. All of the details seem to add up and it can be determined, by closure, that “The Girl” is taking place during the Depression. “An Elderly Gentleman” shows this same historical event and it’s effects on a different level of society. This time, the story is focused on a businessmen involved in and causing the mess. The elderly gentleman is one of these businessmen, which we have reasoned to be true because of his spending of large amounts of money on art, his help with charity, and the series of images in which there is a meeting held to discuss a decline in net profits. And lastly, “The Boy” is shown as being in desperate situations. He hitches rides on trains, steals from a lost briefcase, considers the army, and takes odd jobs to gather money to take his girl to the fair on the last page. Our reasoning informs us that usually people who must hitch rides, steal, and are overall desperate for money do not have jobs. His unemployment would put him in the same boat as the girl’s father and so we can assume that he is feeling the effects of the Great Depression also. The use of reasoning to determine timing is much more complex than in other comics since it is depicted in three separate stories in three different ways (years, months, days). It allows readers to stack the scenes occurring simultaneously and mentally organize them in a way that makes sense.

Many images in Vertigo are included not only to provide a glimpse into a scene of one of the stories, but also to draw out some kind of emotion from the reader. The details in the body language, clothing, and facial expressions of the characters allow for these emotions to easily become apparent. This is yet another example the importance and complexity of closure within Ward’s book, as well as the need for previous knowledge of these emotional indicators to recognize them when we see them and allow us to use deductive reasoning to fill in the scene. A picture in “The Girl” shows her lying by her father’s hospital bed. Closure lets us know there is sadness in the room. There are no words. There are no tears. The position of the girl’s body and the location can be recognized as those often associated with grief. This conclusion is reached by saying that because a person looks distressed and is in a hospital, they are sad. In “An Elderly Gentleman,” the picture of the rioting crowd raises emotions not depicted through facial expressions on the rioters or captions, but those stored in our minds from events we have either witnessed or been a part of. We know that members of a rioting crowd are not content. They are rioting for a reason, so they must be angry and frustrated.

Combining the idea of drawing out emotion with the use of prior knowledge, deductive reasoning is required to fully see the scene in an image in the beginning of the book. The image is showing the girl’s father sitting in the audience at her graduation. We see a man sitting in a chair with his hands placed on his lap. To begin with, we can use our past knowledge of feeling anxious to deduce that his posture indicates some fear or nervousness. His hands are tightly placed together, as are his knees, and his elbows are locked. If we treated this image the way an infant would (as described by McCloud on page 62), we would assume that he was sitting in a white room surrounded by only a few people. If we could not see the people around him, the stage, the walls of the school… they did not exist. Closure allows us to realize that this is not the case. In fact, he is one part of a very large crowd, surrounded by all kinds of noise not represented in the image as well as a crowd that extends far beyond the frame. This is also an example of top-down processing. Previous images show a long line of people filing into a room, so it is known that the man is not a part of a small group. In addition to simply having the knowledge of the previous image, deductive reasoning allows us to say that it’s unlikely that a man would be sitting in the middle of an auditorium with just a few other people. There is a school sign on the pole above the girl and her father. Top-down processing allows us to take these details and view the image with the anticipation that it will have something to do with a large crowd and a school. Closure allows us to fill in the gaps between the line, the sitting father, the man on stage, and later the kids and their diplomas to see that the event was high school graduation.

Closure is important to any kind of graphic novel or comic. Vertigo is unique from these other comics because of its style and complexity, which require a keen memory for facts from previous images in order to effectively use deductive reasoning to reach closure. The way that it must be read varies greatly from other books that might be considered comics or graphic novels. Those books can be read without much thought. The small amounts of information that are needed to understand the whole story are usually directly spelled out. They are simple stories with not much room, or necessity, for interpretation. Vertigo stands apart from the rest. It has incredibly detailed images with deep meanings and filling in the gutters take an enormous amount of effort. The meaning of each image goes far beyond what we initially see when looking at each separate page, but this meaning cannot be realized until facts are known and used. With prior knowledge, deductive reasoning can indicate things to the reader that would have been exceptionally difficult to see otherwise. Vertigo has three separate sections, inconsistent timing between images, detail, and a complete lack of text. These components of the book make it a very demanding comic to read and make an accurate use of the facts we are provided with indispensible. Every single detail in the image is important. The emotions which are illustrated, however vague, are important to the story as a whole. The web which links the people, times, and places in Vertigo is woven by a use of closure, which relies on past knowledge. A complete set of facts is not always given, so we must use deductive reasoning to come to the most accurate conclusion we can with what we have. With facts from prior illustrations, closure becomes precise. The ability to confidently rely on closure to fill in gaps is absolutely necessary to see the “big picture” that is Vertigo.

Works Cited

Khoii, Roya, and Zahra Forouzesh. "Using Comic Strips with Reading Texts: Are We Making a Mistake?" Literacy Information and Computer Education Journal (LICEJ) 1.2 (2010): 1-10. PittCat. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art. [New York]: HarperPerennial, 2007. Print.

Kenneth F. Hyde, (2000) "Recognising deductive processes in qualitative research", Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Vol. 3 Iss: 2, pp.82 – 90

Ayalon, Michal, and Ruhama Even. "Deductive Reasoning: in the Eye of the Beholder."Educational Studies in Mathematics 69.3 (2008): 235-47. Print.


Robert Crumb’s legacy is one of generally offensive and objectionable works. While he did illustrate the Bible and also make cartoons directed towards children, a lot of what he created was in someway objectionable, if only testing the waters. He admits that for some of his comics he basically drew pornography along with some less taboo works. He says: “In my pornography, it was so personal and fetishistic that, you know, I was basically doing it for myself. I wasn't really pandering to anybody else's taste. It actually did not sell well. My sex stuff did not sell well. What they really liked was, you know, "Mr. Natural" and "Fritz the Cat." That's what the kids really wanted.” (NPR) While he admits that he did make material aimed more for the general population of kids, he also created a large amount of what is considered pornography. The movie “Crumb”, discusses one particular comic that is exceptionally pornographic and generally disturbing in nature. The comic features a father and mother committing ghastly acts of incest with their children. The comic ends with the parents joking about how they need more family time. According to the movie this really is one of Crumb’s darker and more disturbing works, but nonetheless it is a part of his body of work. The woman who discussed this comic stated that this is just one example of how some of Crumb’s work goes beyond satire and ends up in the pornography section. Whether or not they were pornographic, Crumb’s comics generally tried to rock the boat in some way.

Crumb’s work does not always wind up in the pornography section, but it is still often considered offensive. Crumb works in the realm of satire and it is therefore inevitable that he is going to be offending someone. There is another comic that was discussed in the movie “Crumb” that can be considered offensive by many. The comic begins with three men encountering a black woman in the jungle. This does not sound too offensive, but the depiction of the woman is the first shocking thing. The men are typical businessmen, but the woman is depicted as an Amazonian jungle woman who speaks broken English. The men appear to “rescue” her from her savage life and convince her to go to the city with them, where she will get to wear pretty dresses and be classy. In the next panel she is on her hands and knees with her head in the toilet, “cleaning” it. The three men then come in laughing and then proceed to literally and metaphorically “shit all over” her. This comic is supposed to be satire, but it is also extremely offensive. Satire is supposed to exaggerate and point out flaws of society, but it also normally has a bit of humor thrown in to make it less harsh. It is hard to believe that most people would consider this comic anything but offensive and even harder to believe that anyone would actually find and humor in it and laugh at it. This comic starts off offending women in general, not to mention African American women specifically. There is the way he depicts the woman: as a savage jungle dweller without the ability to speak proper English. There are the men bribing her with dresses and the hopes of looking classy, which are of course things that all women everywhere aspire to achieve. There is the woman working for these aspirations by doing typical “women’s work” and that alone can spark fits of rage in feminists everywhere. The woman is also literally and figuratively placed below the men. This is just example of how one specific comic is offensive to one specific demographic, but this is typical in the majority of Crumb’s work. With that being said however, the way that Crumb treats the Bible it somewhat different.

A straight illustration job is the cleverest thing Crumb could have done. Simply by illustrating the Bible word for word, panel-by-panel, Crumb makes a bigger statement about it than he could have if he added his usual satire and offensiveness. Crumb says he thought about doing a satirical Adam and Eve story but the story itself was so curious that he decided it was better to do it straight. The first two chapters of Genesis tell contradicting stories of Adam and Eve and by literally illustrating this he can clearly point out the numerous inconsistencies in the Bible.

Comic books can illuminate a text, you know, break it down into panels, illustrate everything. And suddenly, it brings to light things that people might pass over in a - just in a written text ... I just illustrate it as it's written, and the contradictions stand. When I first illustrated that part, the creation, where there's basically two different creation stories that do contradict each other, and I sent it to… a Bible scholar. And he read it, and he said wait a minute, this doesn't make sense. This contradicts itself. Can we rewrite this so it makes sense? And I said that's the way it's written. He said, that's the way it's written? I said, yeah, you're a Bible scholar. Check it out (NPR).

What is so clever about this is Crumb can point out the inconsistencies and amoral occurrences in the Bible, but he cannot get in trouble for it. If he used satire to over exaggerate things in the Bible, then religious people who took offense would have had some credit to being offended. Instead he simply points out things that are written in the text that may be overlooked or pushed aside. If a religious person was to get angry at him for anything he depicted, he can simply point out where in the scripture it says what he drew and they would no longer have any argument. Because of this he can graphically illustrate murder, violence, rape, incest, some cult-like behaviour and pretty much all the seven deadly sins and get no flack for it. He uses this to his advantage in the Adam and Eve story and multiple other times in Genesis.

One of the instances where he uses this to his advantage is in the story of Abraham and Isaac. By literally and graphically illustrating the text of the Bible, Crumb points out concerning realities of this story and the religion as a whole. In his depictions of Abraham and Isaac, we see Crumb pointing out cult-like tendencies. According to the story, God told Abraham to kill his only son and Abraham was going to obediently obey. There is a series of panels where Abraham is tying up and placing his son on the pile of wood and then he stands menacingly over his son with a knife, ready to do the deed. Abraham has the same blank stare in all of these images. He blindly follows God’s directions seemingly with no questioning. It is as if Crumb is saying look at this, it is clearly cult behaviour. The message that is probably trying to be put across is we should obey God and he will take care of us, but attempting killing your one and only son is pretty extreme. Is a rather drastic thing for a so-called loving God to ask for and it’s pretty cult-like behaviour for Abraham to blindly obey. Crumb clearly points this out in his images. Abraham seems to be in a trance while wielding a cleaver over his son in one panel but then in the very next he seems to be startled out of his trance as he finally begins to panic about what he is about to do. The messenger from God suddenly snaps him out of it and he simply looks up and wonders what he’s supposed to do next. The messenger tells him he doesn’t have to kill his son and that it was just a test. Crumb doesn’t depict any panic or worry until this point when Abraham is snapped out of his trance. He suddenly depicts him as suddenly being self aware and only now aware of his horrid actions.

Crumb did not set out to make an offensive version of the Bible. He simply wanted to literally illustrate the stories and in doing so have it point out it’s out inconsistencies. He knew that by simply having “The book of Genesis” and “Illustrated by R. Crumb” on the cover it would cause controversy. Now one can go into the store and see the book of Genesis next to pornographic comics, with Robert Crumb being the common factor. Genesis is now linked with pornography and other so called offensive material. He took the scared book and put it down in the same level with questionable comic books. Not only did he do that but he also ingeniously had it point out it’s own flaws. He illustrated word for word and added little exaggeration. When he did add to areas he only called to attention things that are typically overlooked. He did a lot of research and combined that with his own literal interpretation of some tricky situation in Genesis. The text that is the Bible is considered sacred and the epitome of all that is holy and moral by many people. What Robert Crumb succeeded in doing was taking the bible down from its pedestal. He called attention to all the evil and amoral acts in just the first book of the Holy Scripture. Crumb was raised Catholic but not longer subscribes to any particular religion and with this outsider’s view point he brings to light some questionable occurrences that many firm believers tend to over look.

Works cited

Crumb, R. The Book Of Genesis. W W Norton & Co Inc, 2009.

Crumb, Dir. By Terry Zwigoff. 1994; Sony Picture Classic.

Neal, Conan, dir. "R. Crumb Illustrates The Bible." Dir. Crumb Robert. Talk of the Nation. National Public Radio: 11-2-09. Radio.